Left medial orbitofrontal cortex volume correlates with skydive-elicited euphoric experience
The medial orbitofrontal cortex has been linked to the experience of positive affect. Greater medial orbitofrontal cortex volume is associated with greater expression of positive affect and reduced medial orbital frontal cortex volume is associated with blunted positive affect. However, little is known about the experience of euphoria, or extreme joy, and how this state may relate to variability in medial orbitofrontal cortex structure. To test the hypothesis that variability in euphoric experience correlates with the volume of the medial orbitofrontal cortex, we measured individuals’ (N = 31) level of self-reported euphoria in response to a highly anticipated first time skydive and measured orbitofrontal cortical volumes with structural magnetic resonance imaging. Skydiving elicited a large increase in self-reported euphoria. Participants’ euphoric experience was predicted by the volume of their left medial orbitofrontal cortex such that, the greater the volume, the greater the euphoria. Further analyses indicated that the left medial orbitofrontal cortex and amygdalo-hippocampal complex independently explain variability in euphoric experience and that medial orbitofrontal cortex volume, in conjunction with other structures within the mOFC-centered corticolimbic circuit, can be used to predict individuals’ euphoric experience.